When Donna Stewart put the call out for volunteers at the inaugural Jazz & Blues in the Village event more than a decade ago, it was an unlikely group of twenty-somethings who really pulled through.
“My daughters were just out of high school, and they starting calling their friends,” said Stewart, chair of the fundraiser for the Sarnia Organ Donor Awareness Group.
“It wasn’t really their type of music, and they already had so much going on in their lives, but they came out and helped anyway.
“It was just nice to see kids at that age want to give back and do something for their community.”
As the festival slowly grew and moved to McGibbon Park, that same crew returned year after year – taking on decorating and cleanup duties, bartending, and so on – marking a now decade-long tradition reserved for the third weekend in September.
“They schedule their lives around it now,” said Stewart, who receives texts from members of the group – many of whom are now married with families of their own – as early as the spring, asking when and where they can help out.
“It’s something I look forward to every year, and it’s a fantastic reason to come home,” said 31-year-old Jayla Mortensen, who now lives in Toronto, but returns every year to volunteer.
“And the best part is that my closest group of friends are right there alongside me.”
And the cause isn’t lost on her, either.
“I believe in what they do,” Mortensen added. “I’m a registered donor, myself, and I’ve seen how organ donation can change peoples’ lives.”
More than $20,000 was raised for SODA at last year’s event.
“Most people work all their lives, then retire and look for ways to volunteer,” said Stewart. “But these kids don’t have a lot of time on their hands. Yet they still, every single year, show up to help us.
“And each year, they want to make it better than ever.”
The 11th annual Jazz & Blues in the Village is set for Sept. 19 and 20 at Sarnia’s McGibbon Park.
Friday Night Blues (gates open 6:30 p.m.)
Chris Murphy Band – 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
JW-Jones – 9:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Saturday Afternoon Jazz (gates open 1 p.m.):
Diana Panton – 2 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.
Opening Ceremonies – 2:45 p.m.
Diana Panton – 3 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.
Al Weiss Jazz Quartet – 4:15 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.
Saturday Evening Blues (gates open 6:30 p.m.):
Lit’l Chicago – 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Tom Lavin & the Legendary Powder Blues – 9:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.
For more, visit www.jazzinthevillage.com